Stephen R. Covey in his number 1 bestseller presents vivid ideas for personal development and effectiveness. It was first published in 1989 and since then; over 15 million copies have been sold in 38 different languages. This essay covers the introductory overview of the book and provides a brief description of the seven habits.
It was in the 1970’s when Covey was working for his doctorate degree that he decided to review over 200 years of written stories on success. He realized that most writings on success since the 1920’s have proposed solutions to address particular challenges. These pieces of advice have always been tentative and geared towards addressing short-term issues rather than long-standing issues, the underlying ones. The success writings of the second half of the previous century largely identified with the personal attributes such as traits, techniques, skills, and positive attitude. This can be summarized in the philosophy normally known as the Personality Ethic. The philosophy of Character Ethic, on the contrary, is associated mainly with such underlying traits as patience, integrity, quality, honesty, fairness and courage.
The book points out that the elements constituting the Character Ethic are classified under primary traits. The Elements of Personality Ethic, on the other hand, are secondary traits. The two traits are necessary for long-term success. The author offers a clear example to contrast the two types of traits. The Personality Ethic can be relied upon if the underlying paradigms are rightly obtained. Changing the external way of expressing oneself may not be as effective as one may expect. Research has revealed that human beings judge the world from their own point of view rather than perceiving things the way they are. Under Character Ethic, it is believed that human beings have a set of rules or principles that must be followed to the letter.
Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People provides the reader with comprehensive approach to effectiveness based on character and clear principles. The understanding of this book is that change usually starts from within an individual. It favors the Character Ethic over the Personality Ethic.
The author’s objective is to offer an explanation of the major habits that should be possessed by highly effective people. The book takes us through three main stages; first is the dependence stage which human beings rely on others for survival. Secondly, we have the independence stage which helps in gaining some degree of self-reliance. The third is the interdependence stage which involves mutual cooperation in order to achieve an objective that may prove both independently and dependently impossible. Covey recommends the independent stage for the current generation although it cannot be used optimally in the current interdependent world.
Being independent is the basic requirement for being interdependent. The first habit, according to Covey, is that of being proactive. The second habit encourages readers to begin anything with the end in mind. Putting first things first is the third habit brought out clearly in the book. These first three habits emphasize on the need to transcend from dependence to independence.
The next three habits, as well, focuses on interdependence. The fourth stresses the need to think win/win where great deals are rewarded due to the mutual benefit. The fifth habit states that one should seek first to understand, then to be understood. Covey appreciates this habit as being crucial for interpersonal involvements. The sixth habit is the need to synergize. This can be cultivated through tapping people’s strengths rather than weaknesses. The seventh habit is that of dynamic improvement where one attains a high level of personal production potentialities.
This introductory essay has provided the general overview of the content in Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.